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Talking About Racism in Child and Family Advocacy

As the field seeks to lead a more public conversation about the impacts of racism on children and families—and about how racism structures the systems that children and families interact with—intentional framing will help those conversations be more productive.
January 31, 2023

As scholars and movement leaders of color have long observed, we can’t dismantle racism without talking about it. And as racial justice advocates and activists deepen our awareness of how racism affects children, adolescents, and families of color—and how racism is rooted in the public systems that shape families’ lives—more voices for children want to speak directly to the impact of racism. This is particularly urgent and necessary when it comes to child welfare systems and adjacent institutions, where the path toward justice necessarily involves replacing punitive institutions with radically reimagined approaches.

This brief was written for leaders in child welfare, family wellbeing, or child/youth development who are doing important anti-racist work or moving toward adopting an anti-racist strategy. This guidance offers ways to communicate more effectively on issues like structural racism, racial and ethnic disparities, racial equity, and a vision for an anti-racist future. The recommendations are best suited for efforts to build public understanding as part of policy advocacy or systems change, and especially relevant for public-facing channels such as mass media, social media, or organizational content that may reach many people. They offer ways to activate people who may not be currently participating in this conversation and educate or inform people who are disposed to support antiracist efforts but don’t know how to engage.